To say that AMD has been uncharacteristically quiet lately would be an understatement of epic proportions. The company that had been so vocal about their K8 architecture in the past will hardly say anything at all about future products, extending even to its forthcoming AM2 platform. In just two months AMD is scheduled to officially unveil its first DDR2 platform (Socket-AM2), but we've heard virtually nothing about performance expectations.

Back in January we sought to discover for ourselves what AMD's Socket-AM2 platform would have in store for end users. You'll remember that when Intel made the shift to DDR2 it basically yielded no tangible performance improvement, and we were all quite afraid that the same would be true of AM2. When we finally tested the AM2 samples that were available at the time, performance was absolutely dismal. Not only could AMD's AM2 not outperform currently shipping Socket-939 platforms, but due to serious issues with the chip's memory controller performance was significantly lower.

Given that AMD was supposed to launch in June at Computex, the fact that AM2 was performing so poorly just five months before launch was cause for worry. Despite our worries, we elected not to publish benchmark results and to give AMD more time to fix the problems. We're not interested in creating mass panic by testing a product that's clearly premature.

In February we tried once more, this time with a new spin of the AM2 silicon, but performance continued to be lower than Socket-939. Luckily for AMD, the performance had improved significantly, so it was slower than Socket-939 but not as much as before.

The next revision of the AM2 silicon we received sometime in March, and this one finally added support for DDR2-800, which is what AM2 will launch with supposedly at Computex. With the launch only three months out, we expected performance to be at final shipping levels, and we were left disappointed once more. Even with DDR2-800 at the best timings we could manage back then, Socket-AM2 was unable to outperform Socket-939 at DDR-400.

That brings us to today; we're now in the month of April, with less than two months before AMD's official unveiling of its Socket-AM2 platform at Computex in June, and yes we have a brand new spin of AM2 silicon here to test. We should note that it's not all AMD that's been holding AM2 performance behind. The motherboard makers have of course gone through their fair share of board revisions, not to mention the various chipset revisions that have changed performance as well. Regardless, according to internal AMD documents, AM2 CPUs are going to start being sold to distributors starting next month, leaving very little time for significant changes to the CPU to impact performance. We feel that now is as good of a time to preview AM2 performance and put things into perspective as we're likely to get before the official launch.

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  • sprockkets - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    No one thought that making a more capable ILP was possible, but intel proved that wrong. They all thought ILP was dead due to the P4, which is ironic.

    Would I wait for AM2? Why? Crucial Ballistix Ram in DDR-400 is $95 for 512x2, whereas DDR800 is $185.

    NO. Little to nothing is not worth $90 in memory plus a premium in boards and processor prices.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I mean ddr2-800 Reply
  • flemlion - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    This seems to be just a quicky review. In the conclusion it is mentioned that the usefullness of memory bandwith increases as the CPU clock speed increases. But still a lower speed was used for this test than for the DDR1-400 versus DDR1-500 evaluation. It seems to me at least this test should either have been done at different speeds to get a feel of this impact or at minimum at the same speed of the DDR1-400 versus DDR1-500 article.
    As a sidenote, it's also interesting to see that the test config has no mention of the CPU speed that was used. If this is NDA, then say so, if not it just appears as hiding the details that would expose this article as gossip instead of information.
    Reply
  • andrewln - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I meant...
    Intel will see how the next generation of AMD works just 5% faster....wouldn't they tune down conroe to match or make it just a bit faster than AMD and sell at the premium price? Since the demand will be almost the same.
    1) AMD fanboi will keep on buying AMD
    2) Intel fanboy will keep on buying Intel
    3) But this time, people that wants performance, will be buying Intel (even though its only a 10% faster than the competitor, or 40$)

    This way, when AMD makes a new gen of procesor, Intel only have to tune up Conroe which is cheaper than making another big modification that might or might not work.
    Reply
  • Conroe - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    They said 20%, and thats where they plan on staying. Theu could have more. The FX-62 has extra cache, it may give 10% who knows? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Every FX-62 I've seen hasn't had any more cache than what's in the table in the review.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Dfere - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I’ve got to disagree- I don’t think this makes sense to even upgrade from a 754 system to AM2.

    Why? Because if you remember Nforce 2- and all the Mb’s with “future- proof” DDR-400 systems, the MB makers did not live up to their claims. For most recognized mfg’s it took the revision after DDR-400 memory was available before most of them got it right.

    So I don’t see where AM2 can even be thought of as an upgrade path, especially before final revisions have been made in silicon. A MB you buy initially might work, but with future memory or processors… forget it. Anybody wanna take a bet ($1 will get you $10), that the first MB’s out by lets say- ASUS, do not allow for different memory timings or the latest memory say March of 07?, let alone a top of the line processor, same date?

    While the author did say many changes are still in the works, final silicon may not yet even been achieved. How can buying a MB now be considered a possible upgrade in the future?

    For this reason, and many price/performance reasons, I have a 754 system, and I will hope that after tax season ends I can build a 939 for a better price. That’s it.

    The numbers per the review state this clearly. This is not about performance. And it will be expensive. The analysis on the forum here site seems to indicate that the relative analysis is expected future performance, when Anand admittedly and AMD (by not making announcements about performance) seem to indicate (and I explicitly do) that this is not about performance…. Yet either. So how can this even be recommended as an upgrade path when there is very little real world benefit and future compatibility a MB purchased now and memory or processors is not even known.

    I am an avid fan of AMD, but I think excess hype can kill a product as quickly as bad rumors.
    Reply
  • HammerFan - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I'm suprised that nobody has considered the bottlenecks in AMD's systems as of late. Recently, it seems that all AMD really needs to do with the K8 is keep squeezing more MHz out of it. Clearly the CPU has enough memory bandwidth to spare, so bring the rest of the processor up to speed. IIRC, AMD is starting to implement an improved version of SOI in their new CPU cores (or is it 65nm cores?), which will help increase clock-speed headroom. Also, as quality continues to improve, AMD might be able to add higher clock speeds to take advantage.

    just my $.02

    HF
    Reply
  • ozzimark - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    one thing that would REALLY help K8... follow intel's footsteps with netburst and try to double-pump the ALU. faster SSE execution never hurts either :) Reply
  • still - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Double-pumping the ALU is only going to limit scaling and increase heat... what the K8 core really needs is better L1 and L2 cache subsystem.... The L1 is sort of ok but getting old it the same one the K7 (7 year old). They improved the L2 of the K8 over K7 but half heartedly. It still has too narrow of a path and too high of a latency. I can just imagine what the K8 can do with a 4M low latency cache that has 256 or 512 bit width data path (+ ECC of course).
    While they are there lower the L1 latency to 2 cycles. That alone is 5-10 % improvement.
    And they need to seriously improve the SIMD execution units. The current AMD SIMD units are almost as lame as the Intel implementation of AMDs 64bit instructions.
    Oh yeaa and write some decent compilers to make use of the 64 bit goodness like extra register - where are the promised 20 % improvements?
    The K8 core can scale better than Conroe and can crunch trough more instructions/data if the cache subsystem can feed all these to the execution units. Albeit the K8 has to be clocked slightly higher to do that - such is the tradeoff of 3 vs. 4 IPC.
    Reply

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